Do read the comments

A paper of mine recently got some attention online.  This was exciting for various reasons (I even had a phone interview! Like a real scientist!). However, by far my favourite part of finding out what news sites have picked up the story each day is reading the comments.

Oh internet, never change.

In fact the majority of the comments have been disappointingly sensible.  Despite this there are still some gems and I have begun keeping a list of my favourites.  So, in no particular order, here are some of the best things anonymous individuals have said about my work on the internet:

“While I understand the objective of the study, it seems to me that this is another case of Words being used to describe Things.” – Truer words were never spoken, Dresan from io9.

This exchange between dudewitch and Brawno also of io9 gets right to the heart of the issue:

“‘They found, for example, that female sexual cannibals were described with overwhelmingly negative language.’ Comedy.”

“Exactly. I’m shocked (shocked!) that female sexual cannibals are described with negative language. This seems like a textbook case of female sexual cannibal bias if I ever saw one.”

Meanwhile jscroft of phys.org clearly understands how vital our work is:

 “Boy I hope these guys received a bunch of taxpayer funding to answer this VERY pressing and important question. Good Lord.”

There has also been some suggestion that we are simply after an Ignoble prize.  I wish.  It’s not nearly silly or funny enough for that.  Perhaps a follow up study on the language used in comments about studies on language use might do the trick…..

As of yet no-one yet has accused me of being an evil feminist (maybe having two male co-authors helped) but I will keep you updated.

About me

I’m just starting the 3rd year of my PhD at St. Andrews.  I am interested in the evolution of sexual traits and how these affect species ecology.

My working title is: Investigating the causes and consequences of reproductive interference in the Lygaeidae.

Reproductive Interference

Reproductive interference (or RI) is when individuals of one species engage in reproductive activities with individuals of another species, and these interactions reduce the fitness of one or both species.  These reproductive interactions can be anything from interfering with sexual signalling, for example the calls of one species of frog masking those of another, to actual attempts to mate with other species.

Study system

The Lygaeidae (commonly called seed bugs) are a family of true bugs found worldwide.  My work focuses on five species collected from Europe and the USA.  Thus I can study interactions between species that naturally co-exist in the wild as well as those who would normally never encounter each other.

Two Lygaeidae (Lygaeus simulans) copulating
Two Lygaeidae (Lygaeus simulans) copulating

Questions

What causes animals to mate with the “wrong” species?

In order to answer this question I am looking at the effect of context and previous experience on mate preferences. I am also investigating a possible role of circular hydrocarbons as inter and intra specific signals that could be used in mate recognition and mate choice.

What are the fitness consequences of reproductive interference?

So far I have looked at the effect of harassment by heterospecific males on female seed bugs.  I am now looking at how males change their mating strategies in the presence of heterospecific males.

 

Welcome

Hello!

I’m Bugphd. As my name suggests I’m a PhD student at the University of St Andrews studying (surprise surprise) bugs. To be more specific I am interested in the evolution of sexual traits and how these affect species ecology, in particular the causes and consequences of reproductive interference in the Lygaeidae.

I occasionally blog about my life as a postgraduate student over at Inside St Andrews so this blog is going to be for all the stuff I write for them and then decide is either too silly, too self-obsessed or too academic to post there.  Topics that are likely to come up are: my research, procrastination, and anything involving spiders.

I really like spiders
I really like spiders